Inspired by Nature: Sustainable accessories from Arture

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Today I bring you an interview with Shivani Patel, the lovely lady behind Arture, a sustainable accessories start-up from India. As a community development practitioner I am so pleased to be featuring a brand that has been developed by a local entrepreneur, rather than a western entrepreneur who is manufacturing in India. Our societies in the West have in the past benefited from the exploitation of colonisation. Today fast fashion brands are continuing this exploitation in poorer communities across the globe. Ethical fashion brands are changing this. However, as consumers, if we only support western-owned brands and businesses we continue a power dynamic that ensures that western businesses to dominate the global economy at the expense of local entrepreneurs. That is certainly not to say that we shouldn’t ever buy from western owned brands who manufacture ethically in India and elsewhere- many of them are making very positive impacts for the communities in which they are working. But only that we should be aware of how our consumer dollar can perpetuate or break down global power dynamics and consider our purchases in that light.

But enough of my soap-boxing,  let’s hear from Shivani herself. When Shivani first contacted me I was pretty excited by the sustainability properties of the main material she uses for her range, which you will see for yourself as you read on:

 

Arture Tote

Can you tell us a bit about your brand?

The name Arture was derived from Art+Nature and I like to call it “the canvas of nature”. Arture is my means of discovering all of natures secrets and creating pieces of art with them. I am inspired by all things natural and I have always loved to play around with textures. What better place to find the most beautiful textures than nature itself?

 After doing a lot of research, I created a range of wallets and handbags for both men and women. Three points that were important during my entire design process were that the products must be 1. eco-conscious, 2. fashionable and 3. practical. Sustainability doesn’t concern just the products and materials. I knew that. And ethical manufacturing has always been extremely important to me. This is why I manufacture all my products locally in Chennai, India, with a skilled technician who helps bring my designs to life. I work with a small unit of skilled workers who are paid fair wages and I ensure ethical working conditions.

 

What makes your products sustainable?

The main material that I am using is cork fabrics. Cork is a material that comes from the bark of the cork oak tree. These trees grow in the Mediterranean mainly. The bark of the tree is harvested to make cork. No tree is ever cut down in the process. This is what makes cork one of the most ecological materials to use. The cork forests also support a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including the Iberian Lynx, the world’s most endangered large cat. The cork is cut into thin sheets and laminated on a fabric backing to make cork fabrics.

Cork is a 100% natural and biodegradable material. It is also naturally lightweight, anti-fungal, and it has a wax called suberin which makes it waterproof without the need of any synthetic coatings. It is also extremely strong and durable. These features make it a great material for using on accessories. I looked for sustainable materials not just for the exteriors but for the linings as well. Aside from the cork, for my linings I am using 100% organic fabrics made with natural dies in Auroville, India.

Arture Purse

Can you tell us a little more about yourself, and why sustainability is important to you?

I graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chennai in 2013. I always knew that I wanted to create products that would make a difference. But I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do and how exactly I would go about it. I was redecorating my room that summer and decided to make a pin-up board for myself. I went out and bought some cork sheets for the same, and suddenly I looked at the material and found my inspiration. I did more research about the use of cork in fashion and all of it’s properties and that’s when I was convinced that I had found the perfect material. That’s how Arture was born.

Sustainability matters to me because I think we have within us the capability to affect the future. The choices we make today will have an effect on the future of the world. We need to take one step at a time in the right direction and make amends together. That’s the only way we can preserve our planet.

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Thanks to Shivani for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Arture by following the Facebook page or on Twitter, and you can pre-order your sustainable purses and bags by supporting Arture’s Crowd-funding campaign. I do hope you will check them out!


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